The Three Essentials of Zen Practice

June 22, 2018

At this point in my life as a Zen student, I have come to think of the word ” practice” as meaning the on-going effort to live my ordinary  life in accord with the oneness of all life.  The familiar word, “oneness”, has come to describe an undeniable reality.Oneness includes the personal, and yet is not a personal identity. While I am this One Life, it is not the person I think of as “me”. To support this practice-life I try to offer myself a non-judgmental  forgiveness for the missteps made when I see only I-me_mine.

Throughout my years of practice I recall  hearing often the teaching of the Three Essentials of Zen: Great Trust, Great Doubt and Great Determination. I have come to see them as the beating heart of my practice, of life itself. To soften my own tendency to live the word “determination” with clenched teeth, I encourage it  to arise as “willingness”. In some moments I must  encourage it  to arise as “surrender”.

Trust, doubt  and determination:  interdependent,  supportive  and nurturing of each other. The willingness to ask “what is going on here?” or “is that so?” is nurtured by the experience that being wholly present, questioning, and  listening for the response,  will offer a gift. When boundaries of certainty dissolve, a more spacious view view is revealed .  It is a liberating view offering a “way out of no way”. And to practice is to invite an endlessly opening view of what is.